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November 5, 2009

Coffee Won't Keep You Sharp

Drinking coffee offers no defense against the natural decline of mental abilities as we age. But several other factors seem to be good predictors...

Coffee aficionados may be disappointed to learn the results of a new study from the University of Helsinki indicating that coffee drinking offers no defense against the natural cognitive decline that comes with age. Though many studies have looked at this supposed relationship in the past, their results have been mixed, with some reporting a link between coffee and cognition, and others finding none.

The current study looked at data from twin pairs, who varied in their eating and drinking habits, as well as many other factors related to lifestyle choices. Venla S. Laitala and her team followed a large sample of twins who averaged 50 years old at the study’s onset, and 74 years old at its completion. Most participants reported some level of coffee drinking, with 75% of men and 83% of women drinking at least three cups per day. Only a few – 4% of men and 1% of women – said they drank no coffee at all over the years.

They did find that several other factors – namely, diabetes, heart disease, and dissatisfaction with one’s life – were good predictors of age−related cognitive issues...

Towards the end of the study, the researchers screened the participants for cognitive decline and dementia through telephone interviews. They found, sadly, that there was no relationship between coffee drinking and risk for cognitive problems in old age. However, they did find that several other factors – namely, diabetes, heart disease, and dissatisfaction with one’s life – were good predictors of age−related cognitive issues and dementia risk. They say that they plan to address these other variables and their effects on cognition in seniors in future studies.

The research was published in the September 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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